Recycled art

Get Lucky

I learned as a teen that my body was a political vessel and I often use it as a canvas for my art and activism. Over the years I’ve done several performance art pieces and guerrilla art installations geared around bodies in Boise and they’ve received mixed reviews – from hateful to positive. As a fat feminist body image activist I also use social media as a revolutionary tool in sharing my art and my message of body positivity, which includes talking about a lot of things important to me as a woman, like aging, motherhood, my sexuality and bodies. I believe strongly that you cannot make positive change as a social activist unless you clearly understand where and who has worked before you and your place in history. When not using my writing and body as artistic tools, I will sometimes use printmaking combined with found objects and stitching. My two-dimensional artwork often blurs the boundaries between fine art and craft. For me, the repurposing of found materials adds both tactile and historical elements integral to the contemporary story each piece tells. My foundations with fabric and needlepoint, combined with my academic background, have allowed me to explore traditional women’s handiwork in a non-traditional way as part of a movement called craftivism. As a writer I think a lot about words and they often play a big part in my art. Their history, meanings, double entendres, spellings. How we fling them, mean them, change them, reclaim them.


Slut is one of the words that have been used against women, myself included, for decades. It’s typically meant in a derogatory way, making a judgement on how a woman dresses, how many sexual partners she has had, if she dares to talk about her sexuality in a positive way. As far back as 1380 we see the word used to describe a slovenly or dirty man and by 1450 it was often used to describe women similarly, especially kitchen maids. There is also an old reference to a slut also being a homemade candle of sorts (which is, interestingly, how we see it used in an Idaho Statesman newspaper article about Atlanta, Idaho, in 1873). By the 1800s it is usually a word to refer to a woman of “loose morals,” and our own Idaho Statesman corroborates this and follows the national usage of the term. In the 1950s the word appears a few times in the Statesman, in reference to a female prostitute character in a Broadway play and a Biblical reference to Salome. In the 1960s and 70s the term appears more in our newspaper, often in Dear Ann Landers’ columns about young women who have gotten pregnant out of wedlock and wives cheating on their husbands. There are also numerous concerns about The Man of La Mancha coming to the Morrison Center for Performing Arts and the important character arc of a woman’s “transformation from a slut to an ideal woman.” By the turn of the century slut has absolutely entered our vernacular and it’s used over and over in the newspaper, in regards to things like Monica Lewinsky, the play Avenue Q (again at the Morrison Center), sexting and teens, sexual abuse and harassment. For the past ten years, at least, the reference to slut in the newspaper has been in regards to the damage slut-shaming can to do women – emotionally, professionally and legally.

Mention of a French slut in the fiction piece Moonhollow printed in the  Idaho Statesman , August 29, 1942

Mention of a French slut in the fiction piece Moonhollow printed in the Idaho Statesman, August 29, 1942

A mom’s shocking letter to Ann Landers filled with slut shaming and fat shaming of her pregnant daughter, printed in the  Idaho Statesman,  March 17, 1970

A mom’s shocking letter to Ann Landers filled with slut shaming and fat shaming of her pregnant daughter, printed in the Idaho Statesman, March 17, 1970

I recently created this piece for Wingtip Press’ annual printmaking exchange and exhibition called Leftovers, as it was created to use the leftover small pieces of paper and odd supplies found in artist studios. I’ve participated for years and my work always come from other “leftovers” in house, particularly otherwise mundane items from history and my life as a woman and mother, like birth control pill packets and paper dolls. This year’s pays homage to the history of this controversial word as well as paying homage to the historical home of institutionalized “sluttery” in Boise. It was called Levy’s Alley, Boise’s largest red light district prior to its demolition in 1909 on the site of today’s City Hall, mixed into the site of Boise’s original Chinatown on the same square block. Both groups, whose bodies, differences and choices, made them marginalized and “othered” (as also noted in many an Idaho Statesman article from the time), were pushed out to neighborhoods a few blocks away. Both the Chinese population in Boise, which, at one time, rivaled the size of Seattle’s and San Francisco’s Chinatowns, and our prostitutes were beloved, necessary, important members of our Western town and at the same time treated poorly and reviled. The vintage keno lottery tickets were something that could be found in most Chinese shops in the early 20th century, and these were saved just before the demolition of the Hop Sing Building downtown Boise in the old Chinatown at 706 ½ Front Street, built in 1924 and demolished in 1972.

The Hop Sing building (b. 1924) downtown Boise was in Chinatown until it was demolished in 1974. It was on 7th Street (renamed Capitol Boulevard) near where the new parking garage is today north of the Grove Hotel. (photo courtesy Idaho State Archives)

The Hop Sing building (b. 1924) downtown Boise was in Chinatown until it was demolished in 1974. It was on 7th Street (renamed Capitol Boulevard) near where the new parking garage is today north of the Grove Hotel. (photo courtesy Idaho State Archives)


Leftovers (Get Lucky), 2019

Medium: image transfer print on plastic stitched to vintage Boise Chinatown keno ticket c. 1960

*The show opens this Friday night May 5, 2019 at Push & Pour in Garden City, Idaho, with a silent auction of prints (including mine!) if you’re interested in purchasing it. I have to tell you, this exhibition is stellar and this year’s prints might be my favorite of all time. You can see more of them here along with show event details.

Weighing In

I've been active in the body positive movement for nearly seven years now. In early 2009 I Googled the words, "why am I fat and happy with it?" and after scrolling through pages and pages of diet industry links and how to be happier by losing weight, I finally stumbled across two blogs that forever changed the way I look at my body and the world. I will always be indebted to The Curvy Fashionista and the Fat Heffalump for leading me down a fat acceptance path of revolutionary feminist thought that has helped create the person I am today. I devoured book after book and blog after blog and researched like mad for the following three years, working internally on my voice and self-love, getting stronger day by day. It was showing up in my art and writing and, by early 2012, I was ready to take it public in a big way.

I applied for Ignite Boise, an innovative public presentation event where a few lucky speakers stand up and have 5 minutes and 20 Powerpoint slides to share an idea with the 800 Boiseans who pack the house at the historic Egyptian Theater that night and, later, the world via YouTube video. I offered up a program titled "Accepting the Big Ass: How to Be Fat, Fit and Flabulous," proposing a brilliant and subversive spin-off of a 2011 blog post by Dianne Sylvan called 10 Rules for Fat Girls. Ignite Boise said yes, and I was scared shitless as I stood shaking on stage and told the entire audience that I was fat and that I weighed 250 pounds. It was liberating and terrifying and I'm still pretty damn proud of that performance.

A few weeks later I wanted to do something guerrilla art related to celebrate International No Diet Day on May 6th. I had long been a follower of fat activist Marilyn Wann, who had created some body positive art called a YAY! scale, a traditional bathroom scale turned craftivism that gives you affirmations rather than numbers when you step on it each morning. I thought it was such a fantastic idea that I took my old scale and disassembled it, making my own radical piece.

I decided to sneak it in to Modern Art, a yearly event put on inside a mid-century boutique hotel, in which rooms are rented out to local artists to use as an impromptu gallery for the night. There's live music, drinking, dancing and performance art and it's a super popular Boise event that draws thousands of people to the small downtown hotel.

I placed my version of the YAY! scale along with a sign right near the women's restroom off the lobby. I tucked it into a corner, perfect for people waiting in line to use the only bathroom in the place. The spot was too tiny for covert photographing, but I secretly watched people read the sign and stand on the scale and laugh with joy about their "measurement."


Instead of an arbitrary number.

Right before my Ignite Boise talk I had stood on this very scale before covering those numbers up with positive words, because it felt important to disclose my exact weight to the audience. I could reclaim those numbers like I had reclaimed the word fat.

I do, in fact, still keep another scale hidden in a cupboard alongside my YAY! scale, mostly used over the years to weigh my baby/toddlers to make sure they are getting enough to eat and on the right growth track. Sometimes it's used to weigh heavy packages for shipping estimates around the holidays. Every once in a while, though, I pull it out to weigh myself, especially if I'm about to speak/write about body positivity, because being honest in my work as a fat feminist is a source of pride.

Last year I wrote a story for Mamalode magazine called A Love Letter to 226 Pounds, about renewing my drivers license and the lady at the DMV refusing to update my weight. Again, part of my reclamation of my body as my own is sharing that number with the world, and not being ashamed of it.

In keeping with that spirit, I just pulled out my scale today. I'm down to 210 pounds, forty pounds less than I was three years ago when I stood on stage at the Egyptian Theater. There are many reasons for this. I've been pregnant three times since 2008. I've stopped taking birth control pills after twenty years, a medication that makes me gain weight. A few years ago I also stopped taking SSRI pills for panic attacks from an anxiety disorder that I've been able to manage sans medication. This is something I have gone through several times in my life - meds like Celexa and Paxil have historically caused me to gain 30-50 pounds within the first year on them, and later I've always shed that same 30-50 pounds when I go off of them. I'm also officially in perimenopause and my symptoms are wacky and intense, including severe morning sickness/nausea that makes me either vomit, not want to eat very much most days, or both. Weight loss is not my intentional goal, it is just something my body is doing naturally right now, finding its own rhythm at this place in my life journey, and I'm okay with that.

(This is how I really feel about the archaic brand name of my thrifted vintage bathroom scale hovering over those arbitrary numbers. Health at every size FTW!)
While just like proudly telling the world that I am 40-years-old, I will always powerfully declare that I am also 5'5" tall and 250 226 210 pounds and that I (usually) wear a size 22 20 18 and a 40C bra. And the freedom that comes with sharing those numbers is amazing. But none of these numbers really measure me. I'm more than a number on a scale. I am, in fact, so much more than my body at all.

I hope you know that, too.

STYLE: T-shirt Revamp With Men's Tie

I follow Craft Gossip on Facebook and saw this link to this blog's tutorial on upcycling an old t-shirt with a men's tie. Eric happens to have a plethora of old, quirky ties lying about, so I snatched one up.
My blue tee had another stain on it (as most of my tees do) so I crafted a few little fabric rosettes to cover that up, and to adorn the tie.
In the original tutorial, she uses a vintage button, which I also think would be darling. But this turned out pretty cute, don't you think? I can't wait to make more!

ARTSY: Wintry Market + Ticky-Tacky

Early last spring, my friend Kristin Montgomery and I met for brunch and discussed Boise's need for a quality handmade arts and crafts holiday market. We had both noticed that our local handmade shops and markets were expanding and seemed to be successfully operating on a grassroots level that we both appreciated and enjoyed. We knew that we could add something special to the holiday scene and thus, Wintry Market was conceived!
We quickly secured Ballet Idaho's stellar auditorium space, thanks to the community-building mindset of their new development director, Heather Langhorst, and her commitment to artists supporting artists locally. Local animator Jason Sievers created our fabulous poster and we soon had all 30 available booths at the Wintry Market filled with some of the best makers in the state of Idaho. Big City Coffee was thrilled to help our customers satisfy their caffeine fix and sweet tooth and B29 Streatery is ready to park their popular food truck in the Ballet Idaho parking lot for the weekend.
Co-creating the Wintry Market has also allowed me to finally fulfill one of my dreams of starting my own vintage shop. I call it Ticky-Tacky, and it's a carefully curated vintage shop full of reloved and reused items for the home and the holidays. Items have been thrifted, repurposed, and handmade by yours truly. You guys, I'm so excited to share the goodness!
There'll be killer vintage Christmas goods! Clothes! Purses! Kids decor! Art books! Crochet! Needlepoint! Crystal! Melmac! Ticky-Tacky is overflowing with so much greatness it's gonna be hard for me to part with all the retro lovelies I've selected. Of course, everything is one of a kind, and is certain to go fast, as I'm a firm believer in reasonable prices. Vintage homes FTW!
So, if you're local, help us ring in the holidays season by attending the inaugural Wintry Market and supporting Idaho's artists and crafters. Seriously, you're sure to find the most unique and hip holiday gifts around. And, I'd love for you to stop by the Ticky-Tacky booth and say hello.
Here's the deets:
Wintry Market Handmade for the Holidays
Ballet Idaho auditorium
Corner of 8th & Myrtle, in downtown Boise's BoDo District
Sat Nov 5 & Sun Nov 6, 2011
+kids recycled arts corner!
+coffee and snacks!
+quirky holiday photo booth!

CRAFTY: Making Old Stuff New Again

It's finally fall in Idaho, as it seems the 90 degree days are now gone for good. It was a little disconcerting, even as a sun worshipper, to be spreading our cotton spider webs around the rose bush and putting out our 'TRICK OR TREAT' doormat in shorts and tanks. And I couldn't be more happy to welcome the 60 degree overcast mornings, pull our sweaters out of storage, and cuddle up in my Snuggie with morning coffee. It's time.

Along with the change in seasons and weather comes the inside time after a long summer spent under the blue skies. I like that shift indoors, even though with it comes bigger messes and the occasional bouts of cabin fever. Luckily, we've got things we love to keep us busy this time of year - our overflowing bookshelves and my trusty Singer sewing machine. As always, I'm really big on recycling old things into new and love the challenge an overlooked object presents. Over the past few months I've discovered a really great way to use the girls tattered, torn, or stained clothes and make them into something new and usable.

I've been cutting out patterns or appliques from undamaged parts of their old t-shirts and making them into 'patches' to cover up small stains or tears on perfectly good wear. You can see here I covered the bum in a pair of Alice's blue shorts with a pink ballerina and cut some hearts from another tee for her little turtleneck. I've been using whatever fun color of thread is currently in my machine to add to the funkability factor of these patchwork items and I love the way cotton jersey rolls a little when you stitch it on.

Another great idea (which I stole from this blog) was to cut off the girls' pants into shorts when they still fit everywhere but the length. We did this all summer with jeans and 'jama pants and it's a great way to prolong the life of clothes, especially with wee ones that grow so fast. (We did the same with Alice's onesies, making them into little t-shirts.) I discovered that Alice's tiny pant legs, when cut off and turned upside down, looked like the perfect doll skirts, with the elastic waists already in place.

So one night Lucy cut out patches and picked cute stitches on my machine and we whipped up four skirts in no time flat! We could've cut some shorter for baby dolls like this one (or even added straps!) but thought it looked cute as a strapless dress, even though it's a wee bit inappropriate for a baby her age.

We also could've easily hemmed the skirts, but thought the ragged denim look was hip. It would be fun to pick up some infant pants at thrift shops and add other iron on patches and the like for little girls' birthday or Christmas gifts as well.

My friend Kristyn gave me this cute idea the other day for the month of October: gather all your Halloween books into a basket for a special seasonal reading nook. This is especially great for those parents, like me, who are a little too unorganized to put away holiday books and only pull them out once a year.

Alice and I had fun rummaging through our numerous bookshelves in search of books, and came up with more than I even knew we had. We took liberties with the theme and included books on fall, monsters, and spiders, too, and put them all in one of our apple buckets. We are avid readers here and my kids (like yours, I'm sure) get hooked on one book and want us to read it TEN THOUSAND TIMES IN A ROW. So this is a fun way to rethink about books you already own and celebrate the season. I love this idea so much that I'm continuing it into the winter. So, what about you? Any hobbies you reintroduce in the fall? What are your favorite ways to make old stuff new again to your kids?

CRAFTY: Handmade Kids Toys

Since we were still operating on The Compact this past Christmas, all of our gifts were either handmade or purchased second hand. I thought I'd highlight a few of the gifts for our girls that we made, as they turned out to be very cute and some of their new favorite things. They are certainly gifts that would be ideal to give at any time of year, especially for birthdays.

I found the idea for these adorable and easy handmade stilts on one of my favorite mama craft blogs, She has a whole slew of darling kiddie crafts and other ideas that I've also used. I decided to use coffee cans for Lucy's stilts, as they are a bit larger and more study. I covered them with some scraps of vintage Contac paper I got at a thrift shop. Eric drilled small holes in the sides to loop some rope through and voila, they were done in like 20 minutes. They are great for indoor and outdoor fun and her friends have come to love them as well.
I got the idea for this dolls-sized log table and stools from this cute website for green, recycled kids craft ideas. "Santa's elves," also known as Eric and his brother Dominic, took some of our firewood into Dom's shop and fashioned this little set for Alice's Santa gift. They are rustic and are also great for imaginative play both indoors and out. I found the stuffed creatures and tableware are a variety of antique and thrift shops for super cheap. The best part, however, are the handsewn felt cookies I found from local Boise Etsy seller, Vivian, who owns and makes the best culinary creations on Time To Play. They were around $10 for 6 cookies, and I got to pick the "flavor" and frosting colors. The cookies are really well made and SO DANG CUTE I can't even tell you. Her work is stellar and I can't recommend purchasing from her enough.

Santa brought Lucy a similar set up, but her wooden table and chairs were an amazing thrift shop find. Her ballerina dolls also came from thrift shops, and both girls' table linens came from my mother and grandmother's collections.

Lucy and Alice were thrilled with these gifts, and they have really sparked their imagination with play. The cookies are a constant hit, and the table settings have already hosted a number of tea parties for other stuffed pets and Barbie friends. I find these simple toys to often be the most interesting in the long run. They may not be the fanciest or the flashiest, but they are heartfelt gifts that kids are sure to love.

FOODIE: Handmade Valentine Goodies

My dear friend Kristyn invited the girls and I to join in on her tradition of making homemade chocolate candies for Valentines Day treats. I was thrilled, as I don't have a lot of experience with making candy and was excited about the possibilities. She bought the ingredients and provided the expertise and the kitchen, and I brought my girls and some crafty supplies for making cute recycled containers for the candies to go in.

Being a southern belle herself, Kristyn has grown up eating and making Food Network chef Paula Deen's goodies. On the menu were Deen's Almond Chocolate Balls, her peanut butter Buckeye Balls, and some mini red velvet cupcakes (these were from the box because, seriously, we're amateur chefs and mothers, not crazy).

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of the candy creating process, as it was a bit chaotic in Kristyn's kitchen with two demanding babies under our feet and two kindergartners asking for more glitter and sprinkles. Also, candy making is a bit of a time consuming process, especially melting the chocolate in a double boiler and dipping each one quickly. Anyhow, when you click on the above links for the recipes and tutorials, you'll notice immediately that my Buckeyes look not near as nice and polished as hers. Clearly, my Almond Chocolate Balls above, which basically taste just like Almond Joy bars, are not ball-y at all. Have you been reading this blog a while? I'm CLEARLY not a perfectionist.

I was surprised how easy the candies were to make, and how few ingredients they required. Additionally, we came up with some really darling containers, handmade by our children, to box up the candies in. The silver painted container is a baby formula can with the label stripped off (the lid is also cute with pink paint and tons of glitter, but is currently lost somewhere in my girls' playroom). The red containers formerly held sliced deli meat and are decorated with felt, glitter and stickers. A cream cheese container is covered with Contac paper, gingham fabric hearts and glitter (in the foreground).

We lined all the containers with valentine themed cupcake papers and stacked the candies inside. Here you can see we used individual apple sauce containers covered with plastic wrap and ties with pretty satin bows. These sweet little packages were valentines for Lucy's three teachers.
Valentines Day can be a sweet holiday when filled with heart-felt lovely surprises. All our candies are accompanied by hand-colored cards that Lucy made for our family members. I have to say, it is way less stressful to make homemade candy on a holiday other than Christmas. It's made these gifts much more special to make, give, and receive thus far. And my two little cupids have a few more deliveries to go.

ARTSY: Vintage Record Bowls

This is seriously the easiest crafty project ever and has become my favorite go-to gift of the past few months. I've seen these around at art fairs, etc. and always wanted to try my hand so I Googled instructions. There are several sets of instructions out there now, including a few YouTube videos as well. We made these at a recycled Christmas crafts girl party I held in November and they were a huge hit with my arty friends and, again, so easy.

First you start with the records. My neighbor gave me two huge boxes of old records that didn't sell at her garage sale last summer, so I already have a great stash, but you can pick them up for around 50cents a piece at any thrift shop. For the holidays, I used lots of old Christmas albums, but it's fun to select a group based on the gift receiver's tastes. And don't worry, I went through the boxes first and pulled out the all the albums worth keeping because I love listening to vinyl.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Find two glass mixing bowls that nest together nicely, and place the smaller one upside down in the oven to preheat as well. Then, center the record on top of the bowl and close the oven door. Check on it, oh, 5 minutes later and it should look something like this:

Please PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE DIRTY OVEN FLOOR, but do notice how the vinyl has softened and is drooping over the sides. At this point, carefully place the larger glass nesting bowl on top to smoosh down the sides. Leave them like this in the oven for about 1 minute. Remove the whole shabang with oven mitts and let sit for about 1 minute on top of the stove to cool. The vinyl will harden quickly and pop easily out of the glass bowl molds, resulting in the cutest things ever:

It's hard to tell from this picture, but the ruffles on each bowl are darling and unique to each bowl. They look like ribbon candy, especially if you're lucky enough to come upon the colored records at the thrift shop. While they are not food safe, they look great on a buffet to toss keys or spare change into or in the bedroom as a jewelry catch-all. I lined them with newspaper and filled them with microwave popcorn, nuts and hot cocoa and handed them out as New Years gifts for my extended family. There are wonderful artists doing more elaborate and cool things with reused records, especially here in Boise, but this is an easy, make-it-yourself gift for all ages.

ARTSY: Recycled Girly Skirts

Last fall I took a Sewing for Beginners course through the Boise Schools Community Education program with my sister in law. We loved it, and learned to make great things, like pillows and purses. Most importantly, however, we learned how to use, and feel comfortable with, our machines. This was especially important to me, as I own a 1932 Singer which has simple mechanisms, but initially scared the shit out of me. I mean, this is an ANTIQUE and it was my stepmom's, so I really didn't want to bust it. The class helped alleviate my fears and, in fact, I learned to use it and now feel like a somewhat more advanced amateur seamstress. I've made all sorts of items and gifts and plan on making plenty more for holiday gifts. I have a huge assortment of vintage fabric and rick rack but have been really keen on recycling old clothing into new, funky items.

So I whipped up these cuties as back to school skirts for my girls and two of their friends. I got the idea when I found two pairs of women's pajamas pants made from jersey cotton leftover from my clothing swap last spring. To make Alice's skirt, pictured above, I cut off the bottom portion of one pant leg, made some accordion folds in the top, stitched them to fit her waist, and sewed on a monogrammed wool patch made by Boise artist Grant Olsen. Grant is well-known locally for his eclectic style and being prolific in numerous media. Lately, Grant has taken up sewing and quilting, making "security blankets for adults" out of recycled fabrics. He recently had a show of these sweet miniature patches at the Flying M Coffeehouse downtown Boise and I purchased a few. Alice, as you can see, got an A and Lucy got this one:

She is just beginning to learn all the states in kindergarten, so this shape of Idaho was perfect for her. I also made a matching skirt for Lucy's girlfriend, Vivi, with a darling one of a whale in the ocean because she lives near the beach in southern California.

For these skirts I cut out the middle portion of the pant leg of another pair of women's PJs. They bunch up around the waist and you can fold them over to make them as long or short as you like. Therefore, the only stitching required on this one was the sewing on of the patch. Of course, these skirts are kind of one size fits all, and only if you are a girl under the age of six. These fun skirts were "sew" easy and fun and really cost next to nothing to make, and I loved the collaboration of two artists working with recycled materials!